An essential body mineral, potassium contributes to multiple body functions including maintaining a healthy nervous system and regulating muscle contractions. Shockingly, according to a national survey, almost 98 percent of the citizens are not meeting the daily recommended potassium intake. While an increased consumption of processed foods is one of the culprits, it is rarely a direct cause of potassium deficiency. Low potassium in blood is mostly the result of fluid loss that is instigated due to medical conditions such as diarrhea, chronic vomiting, excessive sweating, or blood loss.
Those with a potassium deficiency may experience some of the common signs mentioned below.
Potassium is critical for muscle function as it transmits signals from the brain that stimulate contractions. When this mineral is low, the brain can’t effectively relay the signals, which prolongs the contractions such as muscle cramps.
In severe cases, a condition known as rhabdomyolysis may also unfold in which there is a rapid muscle breakdown. Here, the blood vessels contract and restrict blood flow to the muscles, which subsequently receive low oxygen. This causes the muscles to rupture and leak, resulting in symptoms such as muscle aches and stiffness.
We have all noticed our hearts racing during an episode of anxiety or stress. This feeling is called as heart palpitations. Apart from emotional distress, it could also be a sign of low potassium. A drop in this mineral could hamper the normal pace of one’s heartbeats. Additionally, heart palpitations could be a sign of arrhythmia, a condition involving irregular heartbeats that is linked to potassium deficiency.
Weakness and fatigue
One of the early signs of low potassium is weakness and fatigue. As mentioned earlier, insufficient levels of this mineral can trigger weaker muscle contractions. Similarly, a deficiency like this could affect how the body uses nutrients, which leads to fatigue. For instance, it could mess up insulin production that could lead to high sugar levels in the body.
Potassium sends signals from the brain to the intestinal muscles to manage contractions that churn food for proper digestion. In case of low potassium levels, contractions in the digestive tract might become sluggish that would eventually slow down the movement of food, causing symptoms such as bloating and constipation.
Tingling and numbness
Potassium deficiency could cause paresthesia, i.e., tingling and numbness, usually in the arms, hands, legs, and feet. This occurs because low potassium weakens nerve functioning resulting in these symptoms.
One of the other signs of low potassium entails mental fatigue and mood swings. This is because such kind of deficiency might interfere with the signals required to sustain optimal brain function.
Trouble with breathing
A severe form of potassium deficiency could lead to breathing difficulties. With measly amounts of this mineral, the body can’t relay signals that are required for the lungs to contract and expand. Likewise, low potassium affects the heart function causing it to beat abnormally, which means that inadequate blood and oxygen is pumped to the rest of the body. An altered flow of oxygen to the body can then cause shortness of breath.